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A few years ago I was in the middle of making a recipe when, due to my normal hastiness of not reading a recipe in full before charging into to it, I realized that I didn’t have the listed vanilla sugar in my pantry.  I couldn’t tell you what I was making at the time.  And I also couldn’t tell you that I had ever seen vanilla sugar in any of the stores I’d shopped in.  But I can tell you that since my first encounter with vanilla sugar as an ingredient, I’ve seen it listed in no less than a dozen other recipes.  I can also tell you that shortly after making that first recipe, I tracked this elusive sugar down and bought some.  Ugh.  It was expensive and I knew I could probably just use a little extra vanilla extract in its place but I felt like there was a reason why these recipes called specifically for vanilla sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

Well sure there’s a reason: because vanilla sugar is amazing.  And it’s even more amazingly simple to make.  I believe I “learned” how to make vanilla sugar from watching Bobby Flay; his emphatic instructions were to scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean out for whatever recipe you were using it for and “don’t throw out the pod!”  To make your own vanilla sugar, you’ll put your used bean pod(s) into a jar then cover the pod(s) with regular granulated sugar.  Every few days, shake the container to mix up the sugar and spin the pods around through the sugar to release the vanilla flavor and any remaining beans from the pods into the sugar.  After a couple of weeks, you’ll open up the jar and get smacked with all the loveliness that is the vanilla bean in sugar form.  As you use new vanilla beans, toss the pods into the same container…and as you use the vanilla sugar, add new granulated sugar to the container and continue the process of shaking and spinning.

Vanilla Sugar

So now if you’re wondering what you can use your homemade vanilla sugar for, I’ll tell you simply that you can use it in many recipes that call for vanilla extract in place of [or partially substituted for] the granulated sugar.  I wouldn’t substitute vanilla sugar for extract, but use the vanilla sugar to enhance the vanilla flavor in the recipe.  I use it in all kinds of ice cream, sugar cookies (both decorated and soft versions), pancakes, cakes, and biscotti.  It’s handy to have in your pantry, is a luxurious ingredient that costs virtually nothing, and would make for a fantastic addition to holiday gift packages.  How can you beat that?